How I got myself a real-life MBA?
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
6 million! That’s the number of people who access the Mumbai sub-urban, also called the Mumbai local every day to get from one place to another. It is therefore no surprise that the Mumbai local is known as the most densely packed railways in the world.
Here’s my journey:
After spending a few years in Germany, my work took me to Mumbai, India – the city that never sleeps. Being in a consultant role, you never really know where your next assignment will take you. This one took me to an old part of Mumbai 30 kilometers from home. Now 30 kilometers is not a big deal everywhere, but in Mumbai, it could easily mean a 2-hour long commute by car considering the traffic. The logical thing to do is to take a train, just like the locals. So one fine morning, I set foot in a Mumbai local for the very first time and boy was that a learning experience!
I am going to tell you three important life lessons I learned during my daily commute in the Mumbai local for six months.
Now, you know you have made it in life when you have successfully boarded the Mumbai local. Boarding the train is a tactic that requires some careful planning and strategic thinking. The first time you set foot at the station, it can seem highly overwhelming. The station is packed with tens of thousands of people – office goers, vendors, businesspersons, vegetable sellers etc. and not to forget the sweltering heat. Male, female, old, young – the general law of the land is – PUSH, OR BE PUSHED!
So here’s the trick, start by narrowing down the variables. Once you’ve figured out the platform and the direction the train will approach you from, analyse your fellow travelers who are eyeing the same door to the train. Next, place yourself at a 45-degree angle far away from the door so you get pushed to the train door without much effort when the train arrives. There you go, strategic thinking! (I say it very easily now, but it did take me at least three tries to get into the train the first time).
Boarding the train feels like a massive achievement, but remember there are almost as many people inside the train as on the platform. Like any logical progression in life, the next part of the journey is to secure a place to stand or sit (if you know how to negotiate). So, once you get inside the train you have to look around, survey your audience and find that perfect spot to sit.
Next, you start a non-verbal negotiation with the seat bearer. This could involve a few hand gestures, some eye movement and the nodding of the head. However, be aware that there can be many negotiators doing this at the same time – remember never to lose eye contact, have a strong resolve and you’ll get that seat – that’s negotiation!
Make the most of a situation
40 degrees and a jam packed train can be a full on assault to the senses. You can crib and carry on or if you know how to make the most of a situation it can be an enjoyable one. During your journey you don’t really need a smartphone to keep yourself entertained. There are millions of things that will keep you busy. You can listen to the musician who just boarded the train or shop for trinkets from the lady seller. You can also find entertainment in seeing multiple people read the same newspaper from every direction possible. Or find joy in watching a bunch of old friends playing cards in an awkward setup.
To conclude, someone rightly said that you have not really experienced Mumbai until you have traveled in the Mumbai local. Looking back, am I happy I tried it? Yes of course – it is an experience of a lifetime and has taught me things I can apply in any situation. It has given me a real-life MBA.
Thank you for reading.